Our Own Place had a garage with enough room for one car. Since Kat was way better at parallel parking we decided to let me always park in the garage while she parked on the street. One day I came home from school, and her car was in the garage tho. I hadta double park and run inside and ask what was going on.
“It’s only fair I get the garage sometimes too,” she said.
“But what if I can’t find a spot?” I said.
Then I hadta go back outside and try to park on the street, but none of the gaps were big enough to fit in. The best I could find was way down the street, and its gap was still only the exact same size as my car. When I started to back in it seemed like I was going to hit the car behind me, and then I hadta pull out and try again, and then it seemed like I was going to hit the car in front of me. I pulled in and out several times like that but still wasn’t getting any closer.
“Need help?” someone on the street said.
It was a tough, gritty looking Just-Outside-County guy with eyes that popped out of his face like a bug. I wanted to shoo him away so he couldn’t watch me anymore, but he buzzed right on up to the window.
“I can get it in there for you,” he said. “I’m a Great Driver.”
I liked the idea of someone else parking for me but also wondered if it was some kind of MeNotzie trick.
“How do I know you’re not just fucking with me?” I said.
“Why would I do that?” he said. “We’re neighbors.”
I didn’t actually know he was my neighbor, cuz I hadn’t Traveled to any of the Realities on the street before.
“Hey” he said and held out his hand. “I’m Fly.”
When I rolled down the window and shook it, I got the strange sense that I could trust him.
“I think this gap is too small tho,” I said.
“Nah,” he said.
Then he motioned for me to let him in. I got out and went to the passenger seat, and he got in the driver’s seat and took the wheel. In one swift move he perfectly backed the car in without touching the other cars.
“Wow,” I said, “thanks!”
“It’s nothing,” he said. “I’m better at driving than anything else.”
“I’m worse at driving than anything else.”
“You could get better. You’re young.”
“Yeah, what’re you in college or something?”
I told him where I went.
“No kidding?… You a Reality Traveler?”
“You know about Reality Travel?!”
“Yeah, I usta be one.”
“I was gonna be one once, too.”
Then I told him the whole story and how ALC was actually a MeNotzie school and how thank god I met Kat who Loves me and now we’re going to be Adults together.
“I bet you’re starting to get The Malaise tho, aint ya?” he said.
“You know once you get The Calling there’s no going back, right? If you stop Traveling you’re letting down the fucking Gods, and they’ll make you sick and depressed.”
“Sick like how?”
“Like that congested voice, and those red, watery eyes you got.”
“I have a cat allergy.”
“Trust me, it ain’t the cat. You’re allergic to being an Adult.”
“You can be allergic to that?”
“Oh yeah, if a Traveler tries to do shit like work a lame job or watch TV all the time or start taking their clothes to the dry cleaner, it will really fuck with your system.”
“Is there any way to get rid of The Malaise?”
“Only one way. You gotta start Traveling again.”
“But my girlfriend hates Traveling. I’ve gotta be an Adult for her.”
“You could try, but The Malaise is just gonna get worse and worse.”
“What do I do about Kat then?”
“Hey, if she can’t accept you for what you are, maybe it’s time for you to fly. Ya know, like that one Speedwagon song.”
REO Speedwagon’s “Time for Me to Fly” is a song about leaving a MeNotzie. Sometimes you let someone Dominate you for a long time until you finally get fed up and can’t take it anymore. Then you don’t want to waste any more time in their Reality and escape in the fastest possible way, which is flight.
I knew the song from The Radio and always liked it, especially the high and powerful way frontman Keven Cronin sings the word “fly.” It makes you want to start suddenly soaring thru the air no matter what you’re doing.
“But I can’t leave her,” I said. “She’s probably my SoulMate.”
“I don’t know,” Fly said. “Wouldn’t a Reality Traveler have a Reality Traveler SoulMate?”
“That does make sense.”
“Look man, you don’t wanna end up like me. I usta be the best Traveler. I was SuperFly, and I was quick and fierce and no swatter could get me. I MeToo’d via fast cars, and I’d drive to any Reality anywhere anytime without getting tired or losing my mind. But then I got seduced by a MeNotzie wife and had a kid with her, and then I hadta get a fulltime job to take care of them. And just like that I was trapped forever like one of those fucking flies that buzzes between the window and the blinds until they slowly die.”
“So you have The Malaise?”
“Hell yeah, I got The Malaise. I’m a truck driver who delivers Dr. Pepper to the local gas stations. I’ve had a runny nose for like nine years straight.”
Then he took out his wallet and pulled a card out of it.
“Hey,” he said. “If you do start Traveling again, you should take this.”
He handed it to me and it said…
THE REALITY TRAVELER TRAINING SCHOOL
And there was a phone number on the bottom.
“It’s a Calling Card,” he said. “You hafta receive one to get into the Training School.”
“What happens there?”
“A select few are chosen to become better Travelers.”
“How did you get it?”
“This might sound a little crazy, but I got it from a bird.”
“What kind of bird?”
“I dunno. I dunno the kinds of birds. It was blue.”
“It handed it to you?”
“Kinduv, it was on a tree outside my place, and I couldn’t stop looking at it for some reason. I mean, it was very blue. I said ‘whaddayou want bird?’ and then it swooped over me and the card fell from the sky right into my hands.”
“Wow… but you didn’t go?”
“Never even called em.”
“Maybe you still can.”
“Nah, it’s over for me.”
“Am I allowed to call this number tho?”
“Why not? You’re a Reality Traveler.”
“Well, isn’t a bird supposta give it to me directly?”
“Sometimes this is the way Reality Travel works. For all we know the bird gave it to me so years later I’d give it to you.”
Then Fly noticed the time and started to get nervous.
“Shit,” he said. “I gotta fly now. The wife’ll squash me if I’m gone too long.”
“Alright, thanks, man.”
“Yeah, now what’s the goddam saying again?… Oh yeah, be brave Traveler and don’t forget The Gods are on your side… unless, ya know, you quit.”
Then we said goodbye, and he got outta the car and flew to his apartment, and I never ended up seeing him again.
When I got back to Our Own Place, Kat looked at me suspiciously.
“It took you that long to park the car?” she said.
But I ignored her and went straight to the bedroom and closed the door and called the number on the card.
“This is The Professor,” he answered.
“Hey,” I said. “I think I just received The Calling Card.”
“Yes, you have, Jonathan.”
I hadn’t told him my name tho.